Community and Public Health Services

Community and public health services are primarily concerned with preventing injuries and illness through education and other initiatives. Read on to learn more about employment potential, earnings and degree requirements for community health workers, health educators and health social workers.

Is Community and Public Health Services for Me?

Career Overview

There are a variety of different positions in the field of community and public health services, and each requires its own specific level of education. Most community and public education programs include a combination of classroom and hands-on training, but the requirements vary depending on the type of public health professional you'd like to be. If you pursue an education in this field, you'll study epidemiology, biostatistics and ethics and receive training in cultural sensitivity. In addition, you'll examine how health services, politics, economics and law intersect in a variety of different ways.

Career Options

If you are passionate about creating and promoting safe healthcare facilities, you may be interested in becoming a health inspector, safety specialist or facilities manager. If you're more drawn to health education, you might consider a position as a volunteer program coordinator, community outreach project manager or public health educator. If you want to help others deal with health problems, you may pursue a career as a social worker with a specialization in public health. Potential employers can include hospitals, colleges and universities, outpatient centers, local government agencies and family services organizations.

Employment and Salary Information

In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that health educators held approximately 56,720 jobs and earned an average annual salary of $53,800. Nationwide, opportunities for employment were expected to grow by 19% from 2012-2022. As of May 2013, there were around 141,830 healthcare social workers who had an average annual income of $52,520. A 27% growth in employment was projected for healthcare social workers through 2022.

According to the BLS in May 2013, there were approximately 45,800 community health workers employed in the U.S. who earned an average of $37,640 a year. Between 2012 and 2022, the BLS expected employment of community health workers to increase by 25% nationwide (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Community and Public Health Services?

Undergraduate Programs

Completing a bachelor's degree program will prepare you for entry-level employment. Relevant majors include social work, public health or community health. Major coursework may cover topics in health policy or risk communication, environmental health and biology.

Graduate Programs

You'll need a master's degree if you want to work as a public health educator or public health social worker. A graduate degree might also be necessary to obtain a supervisory position. Graduate programs can lead to a Master of Public Health, Master of Education or Master of Social Work. At this level, you may study program planning and evaluation, public policy, management and research methods.

If you're interested in a postsecondary teaching or research career, you'll most likely need to complete a doctoral program. Program features include the opportunity to concentrate on a specialty of your choice and complete an original research project.

Licensure and Certification

Working as a healthcare social worker requires licensure. Although the licensing requirements may vary by state, it's typical that candidates must complete a master's degree program and accumulate around 3,000 hours of supervised work experience to become eligible; they must then pass an exam. Continuing education may be necessary to maintain social worker licensure.

For health educators, voluntary certifications can be found through The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing and include the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and the Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credentials. To take the CHES exam, you'll need a college degree and a significant number of credits in health education. A master's degree is required to apply for the MCHES, along with a certain number of health education credits or equivalent work experience. Although not always required, voluntary certifications can demonstrate your mastery of the field, as well as serve as proof of your professional status (www.nchec.org). Throughout your career, you'll need to pursue continuing education in order to remain up-to-date with changes in the field.

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